Monday, August 22, 2016


What is the Body of Christ?  Just as a physical body has various parts, each with a different function, we all have different functions in the Body of Christ.  But they all work together with Christ as the head of the Body.  And Jesus leads each one of us by the Holy Spirit.  So, we become His hands, feet, voice, and every other part of the body that is needed to do His works.  As members of Christ’s Body, we are to carry on the work that Jesus did when He was on this earth.
At the inception of the Church, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, the apostles were working miracles and healing people in the name (authority) of Jesus. There were also signs and wonders done in His name. They were the body of Christ.  They had become His feet, hands, eyes, ears and voice to continue the same works Jesus did.  They operated under the power of the Holy Ghost given to them.
As people saw Christ at work through these disciples, they came to believe in Him and were saved. When these new converts were added to the Church, they became the same dynamic soul winners as those to whom they were joined. 
Lately I have been wondering about the church of today. When someone comes to Christ and joins himself to us, what does he become? I'm not sure I want to know the answer to that question, but we must answer it honestly if we want to see the Church rise up and become who God has designed it to be…the body of Christ through whom He carries out His will and His works and through Whom He shows His glory.
What does a new born-again believer look like a year after being joined to us? Has the fire settled down to a barely glowing ember or maybe even gone out completely; or has the blaze been consistently fueled by the Spirit of God? When the fire of the Spirit blazes in the heart of a man or woman, the Word of God will be spread all around. But have these believers become common church-goers who have learned the lingo and proper procedures accepted in our services?  Or are they more filled with God’s Spirit today than when they first believed?  Are they going forth as the Church to the world around them in the power of the Holy Spirit?  Are they doing the works of Jesus?  Am I? Are you?  What have today’s new believers joined themselves to?  What kind of example are we?
What did the early Christians join themselves to? What did their examples look like? Here is a glimpse of what the early Church looked like.
They were meeting daily from house to house to strengthen and exhort one another, and to seek the will of God. How often do we gather to pray together with other believers?  To join together in prayer for encouragement, healing, knowledge and direction?   Many times we have had the privilege to gather at a friend’s house just to share the Word and pray for one another.  Whatever our needs were we prayed.  As the Body of Christ, we need to bear one another’s burdens and watch over one another so we will not grow weary and faint. We can’t do that if we don’t know one another, or if we don’t share our needs for prayer with others.
Most people don’t even take time to attend church more than once a week, much less meet from house to house to serve one another and the Lord.  When we make these times of coming together a priority, God speaks, heals, gives direction, encourages, and sometimes sends out those who are called to a special work.  In Acts 13, we read of a group of believers who had gathered together. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)  Their call was confirmed as they were gathered together in prayer, and they went out to do Kingdom work.  We need to meet together as the Church.
Their lives were built around the Church.  It’s wonderful to have a designated building in which the church can come together, but if that is lost, the Church is still alive.  The early church was not a building.  It was the living organism made up of multiple members of Christ’s body. They were the living church of Jesus wherever they came together.  Their focus was not on building a good, comfortable life in this world and ‘allowing’ Jesus to be part of it. The kingdom of God was their mission, their purpose and their priority.  Leaving their old life behind, giving their all to share the gospel with others, and taking care of the people of God was their interpretation of seeking first the kingdom of God.  What is our interpretation of seeking first His kingdom?  Whatever work God calls us to in His kingdom, we need to adjust our job circumstances and lifestyles to accommodate it.  These early Christians who “turned the world upside down” were ordinary people with jobs and families.  But they became extraordinary because they put God’s kingdom first. 
So, our focus is to be on Jesus.  We should look at everything we do from the viewpoint of God’s kingdom, His purpose and will. Our career should be less of a priority in our lives than God’s mission for us.  My husband has turned down more lucrative jobs in his life because they would interfere with the ministry we are called to do.  As a result, God has blessed us and we have no lack.  Paul, the apostle, was a tentmaker.  That trade lent itself to supporting him and letting him be flexible to go wherever God led Him.  He was a learned man who could have held positions that were considered much greater in the eyes of the world. As a matter of fact, he had held a very prestigious position before his encounter with Jesus.  But He had a mission from God and it took first place.  It was more important than any worldly pursuit. 
They were listening to the Word and studying the Scriptures. These [the Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)  They checked to make sure what they were being taught was in line with the Scripture.  We need to do the same.  In a day when there are so many false doctrines being taught, we need to search the Scripture for ourselves and ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to His truth.  How much of what you know about Jesus is knowledge you received from someone else, and how much is directly from Him?  Learning about Jesus is wise, but learning from Jesus burns it into our souls and seals it in our hearts.
They followed the teachings of Jesus and His example.  It seems we are out of touch with what it means to be a real Christian, being part of the body of Jesus Christ.  It is a decision by an individual to leave everything behind, and to follow the teachings and example of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit within us.  What did Jesus teach?  Read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The words Jesus spoke and the example He set are His teachings.  Jesus’ taught humility and showed us by example.  He taught with words and example about denying ourselves, guarding against hypocrisy, how to handle money, suffering persecution and about forgiving.  And that’s just the beginning. His teachings don’t change to fit neatly into our culture.  Either we allow them to change us or we are not one of His disciples.
They gave what they had to take care of one another. We read in Acts 2 that many people sold their possessions to help those who were in need.  In 2 Corinthians 9, the churches that had plenty took offerings to be sent to those in the church in Jerusalem that needed funds.  And in James 1:27 we are told: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” What we have is to be used to help those in need.  But the Scripture is also clear that we are not called to support the lazy. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)  And Ephesians 4:28 says, “ The thief [who has become a believer] must no longer steal, but instead he must work hard [making an honest living], producing that which is good with his own hands, so that he will have something to share with those in need.” (Amplified Bible)  We are called to serve one another and be quick to share our blessings. God blesses us so we can be a blessing to others.
They shared the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit – They shared the gospel with everyone they met. When they were persecuted and scattered to other places, they took the gospel message with them. We are more likely to talk about whatever is most important to us, and following Jesus was their top priority. They followed wherever the Spirit led them and always shared the message of Jesus. Their lives were all about fulfilling the great commission to “go ye”. Wherever the Spirit led, they went.
So, I ask again, “What are new believers joining themselves to when they join our congregations? When they join themselves to one of us as an individual believer? Are they really becoming members of the Body of Christ to carry on the ministry as Jesus did? Or do they become part of an organization that knows little of Jesus personally?

“And he [Jesus] said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  Luke 9:23

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

Monday, August 1, 2016


            When I hear a siren, I usually say, “Lord, please help whoever’s in trouble.”  Sometimes I even add, “and please help those who are trying to help them.”  It’s not just a habit, it’s a prayer. God hears His people when we pray and He will answer. He expects us to communicate with Him.  Jesus said “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”  1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “be unceasing and persistent in prayer.”       
            Paul wrote to Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that petitions (specific requests), prayers, intercessions (prayers for others) and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all people, for kings and all who are in [positions of] high authority, so that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 - Amplified Bible)
We are to pray for all people – those who are brothers and sisters in Christ and those who are not. Then Paul zeros in on kings and those who are in places of authority.  We need to be praying for our national leaders, world leaders and all those who have positions of authority, whether great or small.
The reason they need our prayers can be found in verses 3-4. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”  God desires that every person be saved.  He also desires that everyone will come to a knowledge of the Truth. People we may never see face to face can be influenced by the prayers we pray for them. No matter how much authority they have, God’s authority is over them.
It’s interesting to note here that Nero ruled as emperor during the time of Paul’s writing. Nero brutally persecuted the church with unthinkable acts against them.  But it is God’s will that ALL come to salvation through Jesus and to a knowledge of the truth. That even included Nero and every other leader.
            Jesus taught in Matthew 5:44 to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”  Here again, we are to pray for everyone…even those who do evil to us.  That’s difficult to do sometimes, but we find strength and release when we do.  It keeps our spirits pure and opens a door for the offender to be saved.
            James encourages us to pray for one another in the household of faith. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God - it is dynamic and can have tremendous power].” (James 5:16 - Amplified Bible)
            We live in “perilous times”, and we need one another to help navigate through all the traps of the enemy.  It’s time we rise up as a spiritual army of believers in Christ and hold one another up through prayer. We also need insight from the Holy Spirit to know how to pray for one another.
We pray when we need a job, a house, healing for our bodies, for circumstances to be changed, or marriages restored. And I believe God wants to give us those things. But there is something deeper and more lasting God wants for all of us.
Here is part of a prayer Paul prayed for the people of Ephesus: “[I always pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may grant you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation [that gives you a deep and personal and intimate insight] into the true knowledge of Him [for we know the Father through the Son].” 
Paul knew something about revelation. He had a dramatic revelation of Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road.  Before that time, he knew only facts he had been told about Jesus and his preconceived ideas of who Jesus was.  But when he had a face to face revelation of Jesus – when Jesus pulled back the curtain and let Paul see Him as He is (His glory, majesty, power and Lordship) – he was never the same again.  Jesus IS Lord, and suddenly Paul saw that.  He said “Who are you Lord?” Jesus answered, “I’m Jesus, Who you are persecuting.” That revelation changed the whole direction of Paul’s life.  He never forgot it. And here he prayed for this to happen to others!
Paul also prayed that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened.  He knew something about that, too.  After he saw Jesus on the Damascus Road, he was temporarily blind physically.  Ananias, a servant of God, was sent to pray for him.  When he prayed, it was like scales fell from Paul’s eyes and he could see again.  It happened spiritually, too.  Paul had a clear understanding of Who Jesus is and his eyes were opened to see Jesus in the Scriptures. He gained spiritual enlightenment instead of just a head knowledge of the facts.
We need a revelation of Jesus Christ.  It’s not enough just to know some facts about Him.  We can have an ongoing revelation of Jesus as we follow Him through the various circumstances in our lives. We can come to know Him personally and experientially as our Savior, Healer, Deliverer, Provider and Lord. But we need to begin to pray this prayer for ourselves and one another.
Here’s another prayer from Paul. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [that is, separate you from profane and vulgar things, make you pure and whole and undamaged - consecrated to Him - set apart for His purpose]; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete and [be found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 - Amplified Bible)
            Paul prayed that they would be set apart. This same Spirit of power, wisdom and revelation will draw us away from the things of this world (of the flesh) to the things of God’s Spirit.  (See Galatians 5:16-21.)
            Jesus prayed this same prayer of separation for all His followers in John 17.  “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but that You keep them and protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth [set them apart for Your purposes, make them holy]; Your word is truth.” (Amplified Bible)  If we want to know Truth, we will read God’s Word and ask His Spirit to show us what it means to us.  He will enlighten the eyes of our understanding when we do, and we can begin to work it out in our lives.
            In Acts 4, we read another type of prayer.  Peter and John healed a lame man at the Temple gate. They healed Him in the name and authority of Jesus.  So, when a crowd gathered, Peter and John preached Jesus to them. The chief priests and religious rulers came and arrested them. It frustrated and infuriated them to hear anyone preaching and healing in Jesus’ name.  They had just recently had Jesus crucified and thought it was all over. 
The religious rulers interrogated the apostles and commanded them not to preach in Jesus’ name anymore.  Then they threatened them and let them go, because the whole crowd had seen the man healed at the gate and they couldn’t deny it.
            Peter and John went to where the believers were gathered together and told them everything that had happened.  They told them how they had been commanded not to preach anymore in Jesus’ name.  But they all knew Jesus had commanded them to preach in His name.  So they prayed like this: “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”  Acts 4:29-31
            They didn’t pray that the persecution would stop. Jesus had already told them to expect it. They understood they were in the world. They also understood they were not of the world. They were set apart. They understood the power at work against them in the world, and they understood the power at work in and through them by the Spirit. They prayed for power to stand and continue to boldly do the work of the Lord. And God gave it to them.
            Think about most of the prayers we pray.  Most are defensive.  Our backs are against the wall and we need God’s help.  And He is more than willing to help us, but God also wants us on the offensive.  He wants to do much more than just help us get by. 
He wants to:
·         Enlighten the eyes of our understanding – make the Scripture alive in our hearts
·         Give us a fresh revelation of Jesus and a spirit of wisdom
·         Set us apart for His purposes
·         Give us boldness to speak

If we begin to pray these prayers for ourselves and one another, I believe we will see dramatic changes in ourselves, others, our churches, our communities, our nation, and the world.

“The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”